New York, as a city that never sleeps, is known for its nightlife, and indeed it’s a $10 billion industry. New York never sleeps, so that means the people running it shouldn’t either. That’s why one city councilmember, Rafael Espinal, is in the process of creating a “night mayor”, who would serve as a friendly go-between for City Hall and New York’s booming nightlife and independent art scene and ensure that wouldn’t be hindered by unnecessary bureaucracy.
The concept of a “night mayor” is new to the US, but it’s an idea that’s been steadily gaining momentum across the ocean since Amsterdam adopted it in 2014 to “transformative” results. Zurich, Paris and London have all followed suit, realizing the potential of a thriving nightlife to kickstart a city’s economy. In Espinal’s proposal, the focus of New York’s “night mayor” would go beyond nightlife, and also be focused on keeping the DIY spaces and smaller venues around the city open. Espinal, who represents parts of Bushwick, East New York, Brownsville and Cypress Hills, pointed out the closure of punk venue Shea Stadium as a reason for a New York “night mayor”. He claims that the city has gotten to the point where the only sustainable venues to survive in the city are high-end clubs or places with similar models, which is hardly conducive to an innovative arts scene.
Many of those who own these venues are in favor of Espinal’s goal of enacting “sensible nightlife policies”, although the power of such an office remains unclear. Many feel that current interdepartmental regulations are flawed at best. Espinal and one venue owner, John Barclay, have pointed to a Prohibition-era law that requires dance venues to have a “cabaret license”, which is in turn owned by less that 1 percent of the food and beverage establishments of New York. This is used as a failsafe to shut down any businesses that New York or the NYPD doesn’t want around. In addition to adopting a “night mayor”, Espinal hopes to abolish this law. As of yet, however, the actual structure of this office remains unknown, and Espinal doesn’t have any names in mind for a proposed “night mayor”.